A Black and Latino second lieutenant in the U.S. Army has filed a lawsuit against two Windsor, Virginia police officers for a traffic stop. Bodycam footage has been released showing Lt. Caron Nazario with his hands up and outside of his driver’s side window while police point their weapons at him.
According to Nazario’s civil suit, he was driving his newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe on December 5, 2020, when he encountered police on U.S. Highway 460 in Virginia. He admitted that he didn’t immediately pull over, and instead put on his emergency lights and “continued for another 100 seconds” and drove under the speed limit so he could pull over at a well-lit gas station parking lot.
When he stopped, police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulled guns on him and issued threats while the lieutenant asked why he was stopped.
“What’s going on?! You’re fixin’ to ride the lighting, son,” Gutierrez is heard saying in bodycam footage.
In case you’re clueless as to what that term means, the lieutenant’s attorney Jonathan Arthur alleges that it’s a “colloquial expression for an execution, originating from glib reference to execution by the electric chair.”
In the footage you can hear conflicting demands, one officer tells Nazario to put his hands out the window, another tells him to open the door and get out. Nazario is also seen admitting to being frightened.
“I’ve not committed any crime,” says Nazario. “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”
“Yeah, you should be,” says Gutierrez.
The officers are then seen attempting to pull Nazario out of the vehicle and when the lieutenant asks if they can call a police supervisor, Gutierrez pepper sprays him multiple times. When Nazario exits the vehicle, he’s hit with “knee-strikes” to his legs, knocked to the ground, and struck multiple times, according to the lawsuit.
The incident report said that Nazario was initially pulled over for not having tags displayed on his SUV, but the temporary dealer plate is visible in the officer’s body camera video.
Nazario was released without being charged. In his lawsuit, he alleges that the officers “engaged in conduct in an attempt to extort” his silence by saying “in no uncertain terms” that unless he “were to remain silent” the officers would “charge him with multiple crimes” and “destroy his military career.”
Officer Gutierrez wrote in his report that he didn’t arrest the lieutenant because felt he had two options: charge Nazario with obstruction, eluding, and assaulting an officer, or release him without any charges.
“I made the decision to release him without any charges,” his report said according to The Virginia Pilot. “The reason for this decision is simple; the military is the only place where double jeopardy applies. Meaning that whatever happened in civil court, the military could still take action against him. Being a military veteran, I did not want to see his career ruined over one erroneous decision.
Crocker’s report also states that he chose not to file any charges because Nazario was active duty military, up for promotion, and the officer didn’t want to see his career ruined for “poor judgment.”
Lt. Caron Nazario is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages because the officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments. The suit, filed in US District Court claims unlawful seizure, excessive force, illegal search, violating his First Amendment right to free speech, and common law assault, battery, and false imprisonment.
SMFH, at least there’s footage capturing what went down with these overly aggressive officers.
Do YOU think Lt. Caron Nazario will get the justice he seeks from this suit???